Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Rockets - 1977 - Rockets

The Rockets

01. Lufrania 4:31
02. Juke-Box Daddy 7:53
03. Rocket Car Wash Blues 7:40
04. Feel Alright 7:10
05. Rock 'N' Roll 5:34
06. Working Man Blues 2:48
07. Thing In "D" 3:35

John "The Bee" Badanjek: vocals, drums, percussion
John Fraga: bass
Marc Marcano: keyboards
Jim McCarty: lead guitar

According to the liner notes, the album was released on Guinness Records and distributed by Dellwood Records. Its Guinness Catalogue Number is GNS 36043.

As with many of the albums released through tax-scam labels, there is no documentation beyond what appears on the album itself. Scot Blackerby in his review of the album, comments that, based on what has been uncovered about tax-scam labels and their operations, there are only two possibilities. None of the tracks on the album, with the exception of "Feel Alright", which appears in a shorter version on their 1979 album, appears on any other release. This means that the recordings used were sourced either from studio demos or from material rejected for their debut album. It is not known just when they were recorded, but based on the fact that the six tracks feature both David Gilbert and Johnny "Bee" Badanjek performing lead vocals, which is something that would only have occurred if some of the tracks had been recorded before Gilbert joined the band

I guess it shouldn't come as a major surprise, but I've never seen a Rockets discography that includes this 1977 release.  Similarly I've never seen the album discussed by any of the band members in an interview.  The fact that the cleverly titled "Rockets" was issued by the tax scam Guinness label and may have been of questionable legality probably had something to do with those omissions ...  who knows.

The Rockets started out as a post Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels/Detroit enterprise led by singer/drummer  John "The Bee" Badanjek.  The line up was rounded out by bassist John Fraga, keyboardist Marc Marcano, and former Detroit wheel lead guitarist Jim McCarty.  Their earlier successes with the Detroit Wheels were of little help when it came to scoring a recording contract and the the quartet spent several years plugging away on Michigan's club circuit.  

In 1976 the band underwent a personnel shake up that saw former Amboy Duke vocalist Steve Gilbert added to the line up (Ted Nugent had kicked him out of the band for his drinking and drugging).

Released in 1977, "Rockets" seems to have been an effort to capitalize on the strong reviews surrounding the release of the band's 1977 RCA Victor debut "Love Transfusion".  Unfortunately, as typical for a Guinness release, the liner notes provided little information on the set.  The vocals were split between Badanjek and Gilbert indicating at least some of the track were recorded post-1975 when Gilbert was added to the line up.  This is nothing but speculation on my part, but I'm guessing the material was culled from tracks the band had previously recorded when they signed with Don Davis' Tortoise label.  That, or it may have reflected outtakes from sessions for their debut album.  Another story that I've heard is that the material reflected tapes the band had financed themselves, but abandoned in a dispute with the studio owner.  The studio subsequently unloaded the master tapes on Guinness at a heavy discount.  Regardless, produced by William S. Evans, the six tracks all featured surprisingly good sound quality.  

For a throwaway collection this one was surprisingly enjoyable.  Certainly better than some of their latter studio sets with big name producers like Jack Douglas.  Love to know more about it ...

Sadly, having lived the true rock and roll lifestyle which included overdoses of drugs, wine, and women, lead singer Gilbert died of cirrhosis and liver cancer in September 2001.  He was only 49.

True to the rock and roll lifestyle, late-inning bassist Bob Neil Haralson died in a drug deal turned sour.

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